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The time I met Jackie Milburn

9 months ago

As we contemplate another chapter Newcastle United’s extraordinary history, we inevitably start thinking about finally winning a major domestic trophy for the first time since 1955.

Such a prospect reminded me of my very small connection to our last FA Cup winning team.

The time I met Jackie Milburn.

I was 11. The year 1974 .The place was Blagdon Hall near Stannington in Northumberland.

The occasion was a Heart Foundation garden fete. Remarkably, amongst cake stalls, horse riding and brass bands there was a sizeable grassed area with a full size football goal and penalty spot.

For five pence you could take a penalty against one of two goalies. The prize was an autographed team sheet. These weren’t amateurs keepers.

There was the Toon’s Martin Burleigh ( who was burly!) and Jimmy Montgomery, Makem hero of the ‘73 Final.

Imagine that now! Two Prem keepers at a garden fete.

There was a master of ceremonies. A tall , smart man in blazer and tie. Jackie Milburn.

I knew him straight away. He’d been interviewed on TV before the nightmare Cup Final two weeks prior and my father would mention him in reverential tones as he’d seen him at SJP in his pomp.

My mother gave me 20p – four goes from 12 yards.

I had a decent left foot ( but no right) and struck three ok efforts. two saved by Monty, one by Burleigh.

I then said to Mr Milburn “It’s my last chance.” He replied, “Good luck son, you can do it.”

Me v Martin Burleigh for an NUFC set of autographs with Supermac, Terry Hibbitt etc.

I took my time then, with a long run up, lashed a strong shot to the right hand corner of the goal. However, Burleigh dived and pushed the ball outwards.

Milburn, despite jacket, tie and black slip on shoes, ran forwards and brilliantly volleyed the rebound into the net. The crowd cheered and he ran back to me holding the autographed sheet.

“Well done son! Here’s your prize!”

What a great bloke and a true gentleman.

Afterwards, he signed autographs and chatted to fans for ages.

I never saw Jackie Milburn play for Newcastle United but he was a hero to me from that day.


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